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Author Topic: Somewhat Flakey with Excellent Research: Which Matters More?  (Read 10160 times)
octoprof
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« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2012, 9:03:11 PM »

Maybe it depends on the kind of person you are, but my own cure for procrastination is collaboration. I will disappoint myself ten ways to Sunday without blinking an eye, but I hate disappointing a collaborator.

One sentence I have never had to utter to a collaborator yet is, "Sorry to have missed that proposal deadline."

Excellent idea. Part of what motivates me to get a particular task done is knowing that when I do that particular project immediately becomes someone else's problem.

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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2012, 9:20:38 PM »

You've gotten some great advice here.  I'll add that prioritizing effort makes a huge difference.  Some things just need to not be blank while other things need your A game.  Setting a timer on things that need to just not be blank and reserving most of my energy for things that need my A game helps tremendously.

Just block out half an hour to fill out some crappy form three days before it is due and be done with it.

Figure out how to break big tasks into small tasks and put them on your calendar as soon as you accept the project.  
Whatever is on your calendar for the day gets evaluated that day.  First, do anything that is important.  Then, set a timer and do things that are urgent.  Last, do things that aren't urgent or important.  For example, write every day on your research, then fill out and submit the paperwork for whatever is due later in the week or return an email to a collaborator or whatever, and then grade papers or other thing that has to be done, but not with your best energy and could be put off until tomorrow if necessary.

In addition to saying no to things that don't benefit you very much, give people an idea of when you will get around to doing something that is nice, but not high on your priority list.  Amazingly, people will find someone else to do whatever you were the only person who could do if the estimated date of completion is 10 months from next Tuesday for a project that might take 20 hours.
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marigolds
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« Reply #17 on: April 28, 2012, 10:28:23 PM »

If you do not listen to hegemony, Polly, and especially Octo, you are seventeen kinds of dumb.

I'm on my phone and can't easily HOF things--would someone HOF Octo's post? That is some serious wisdom there.
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lohai0
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« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2012, 10:36:53 PM »

If you do not listen to hegemony, Polly, and especially Octo, you are seventeen kinds of dumb.

I'm on my phone and can't easily HOF things--would someone HOF Octo's post? That is some serious wisdom there.

done
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marigolds
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« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2012, 10:52:39 PM »

If you do not listen to hegemony, Polly, and especially Octo, you are seventeen kinds of dumb.

I'm on my phone and can't easily HOF things--would someone HOF Octo's post? That is some serious wisdom there.

done


Thanks!
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notsure326
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« Reply #20 on: April 29, 2012, 1:09:52 PM »

I'm not sure what HOF is, but I agree - great advice, octoprof, hegemony and polly_mer.

I find that when I actually sit down and start working, I get very engaged and happily sit there for hours (I always wear earplugs, to block out the noise of the neighbors and the fridge - it's a tiny, old apartment). It is switching my mind into work mode that is the problem, especially when my "workspace" is the same couch I sit on to watch internet TV and unwind. Having another place to work helps the switch. Commuting by either foot or car gives me an in-between space where I start thinking about the work I'm going to do, how I'll connect ideas together. I guess I need to find some way to create that liminal mental space at home. (I can work very well when traveling, oddly - plane, train, airport, you name it. I did a major part of my research analysis on a 2-day train ride across Eastern Europe -  but not in coffee shops or in the undergraduate-packed library. Anonymous spaces are better. Trying to work in the student commons as octoprof does would drive me batty.)

Prioritizing activity and setting aside time for simple, less important (but still deadline-driven) tasks is a great idea. Someone once suggested that I set aside an hour each day to deal with emails, and keep a list of which ones need responses. I tried doing it in the afternoon, which was bad timing, but I might switch it to the morning and see what happens.

Thanks, all!
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professor_pat
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« Reply #21 on: April 29, 2012, 1:19:19 PM »

Travelbug, why not meet with your advisors/potential recommenders and ask them directly, "What do I need to do in the next X months for you to give me a stellar recommendation?" Then demonstrate clearly in those X months that you've done those things.

By the way, I really appreciate your honest self-reflectiveness.
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niceday
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« Reply #22 on: April 29, 2012, 1:43:27 PM »

I'm not sure what HOF is, but I agree - great advice, octoprof, hegemony and polly_mer.

I find that when I actually sit down and start working, I get very engaged and happily sit there for hours (I always wear earplugs, to block out the noise of the neighbors and the fridge - it's a tiny, old apartment). It is switching my mind into work mode that is the problem, especially when my "workspace" is the same couch I sit on to watch internet TV and unwind. Having another place to work helps the switch. Commuting by either foot or car gives me an in-between space where I start thinking about the work I'm going to do, how I'll connect ideas together. I guess I need to find some way to create that liminal mental space at home. (I can work very well when traveling, oddly - plane, train, airport, you name it. I did a major part of my research analysis on a 2-day train ride across Eastern Europe -  but not in coffee shops or in the undergraduate-packed library. Anonymous spaces are better. Trying to work in the student commons as octoprof does would drive me batty.)

Prioritizing activity and setting aside time for simple, less important (but still deadline-driven) tasks is a great idea. Someone once suggested that I set aside an hour each day to deal with emails, and keep a list of which ones need responses. I tried doing it in the afternoon, which was bad timing, but I might switch it to the morning and see what happens.

Thanks, all!


All you are listing here are habits, rituals and cues. One can change those. Create new rituals for work that are portable. "I start working right after I sharpen my pencil." And then carry a pencil sharpener everywhere.

Yeah, it sounds like you'd really benefit from schedules.
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spectacle
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« Reply #23 on: April 29, 2012, 2:00:41 PM »

Quote
How much will this hurt on the job market? I'm in the humanities, and am planning to apply mainly for research-focused postdoc fellowships the first year.

First off, you have gotten some really spectacular advice here already.  I just want to reiterate that this can really seriously hurt you in the job market - particularly in the humanities.

Humanities fields are jam-packed with geniuses who write brilliant work but who can't fill out a simple form and turn it in on time, who blow off meetings and office hours, or who lose student work, or who take half a semester to return seminar papers to students.

I will choose someone with slightly less exciting research but who is dependable, prompt and capable (meaning: a good colleague) every single time.

Good luck changing these habits - it absolutely can be done, and will help you in the long run.
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octoprof
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« Reply #24 on: April 29, 2012, 2:24:01 PM »

Trying to work in the student commons as octoprof does would drive me batty.

Not if you find the hidden corner no one knows about except a few quiet serious students. The same probably applies to the library, which I've been avoiding because an addition is being constructed.

Or, you can schedule some long train rides. :o)

Good luck!
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hegemony
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« Reply #25 on: April 29, 2012, 2:42:09 PM »

Also, I hear you say, "I need X, Y, and Z to work."  You can't work in your apartment, you have to have a distinct space, you have to take steps before you start, or you need a train in Eastern Europe, you couldn't work in the commons, you can't work in your office...  No offense intended, but you are developing the habits of a tender flower.  These are the habits that make it harder and harder to get things done.   It reminds me of the anecdote about when Ingrid Bergman supposedly said to Hitchcock, "I just can't feel this scene," and he replied, "Fake it, Ingrid, fake it."  Instead you need the habits of the guy who finds he likes green eggs and ham: "I would do it in a train, I would do it in the rain, I would do it in my car, I would do it near or far..."  Push yourself.  Find some of the easiest parts and go to some busy environment (coffee shop, student commons) and sit there and work for half an hour.  Pretty soon you'll regard home in the quiet of your flat as luxury.  You can't wait until you feel right or confident.  You just set the timer, start, and muddle through.
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octoprof
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« Reply #26 on: April 29, 2012, 3:04:30 PM »

Also, I hear you say, "I need X, Y, and Z to work."  You can't work in your apartment, you have to have a distinct space, you have to take steps before you start, or you need a train in Eastern Europe, you couldn't work in the commons, you can't work in your office...  No offense intended, but you are developing the habits of a tender flower.  These are the habits that make it harder and harder to get things done.   It reminds me of the anecdote about when Ingrid Bergman supposedly said to Hitchcock, "I just can't feel this scene," and he replied, "Fake it, Ingrid, fake it."  Instead you need the habits of the guy who finds he likes green eggs and ham: "I would do it in a train, I would do it in the rain, I would do it in my car, I would do it near or far..."  Push yourself.  Find some of the easiest parts and go to some busy environment (coffee shop, student commons) and sit there and work for half an hour.  Pretty soon you'll regard home in the quiet of your flat as luxury.  You can't wait until you feel right or confident.  You just set the timer, start, and muddle through.

Precisely!

And, if you can't work well on the sofa, why not have one little corner that is a space only for work. The dining table? The bar? Whatever you have to work with there in your apartment. Choose a space that you will not use for relaxing or watching TV or whatever and make it your Productive Place.

PS. I am typing this while on a three hour flight in a cramped space not even big enough for my tiny tablet PC on the tray table (I live in fear of the guy seated in front suddenly reclining and breaking my screen) and I've managed some major progress on a manuscript, including running new analyses.

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tinyzombie
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« Reply #27 on: April 29, 2012, 3:19:23 PM »

I edited my last conference paper on my iPhone.
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octoprof
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« Reply #28 on: April 30, 2012, 12:38:07 AM »

I edited my last conference paper on my iPhone.

You are awesome and tiny!
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fiona
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« Reply #29 on: April 30, 2012, 2:07:05 AM »

Some people write first drafts by hand while sitting on the toilet, and they don't stop until a natural stopping point is reached.

This is a form of multitasking that is rarely talked about.

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